Not only do American students perform much worse in history than in other core school subjects on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), students also perform worse in history compared to kindred social studies fields.
The most recent NAEP assessments in social studies were conducted in 2018 among eighth graders. Fifteen percent of these students performed at or above the proficient level in American history, compared to 24 percent in civics and 25 percent in geography.
Considering that American history has long been the most prominent social studies subject taught in the nation’s schools, one might expect history to easily outperform these other school subjects. What factor can possibly explain why history education consistently performs so poorly?
The probable answer: Other school subjects—including social studies fields—are based on imparting an established set of coherent general principles for students to learn and remember, whereas history schooling is comprised of an amorphous collection of sundry events devoid of any unifying structure to render the knowledge intelligible, meaningful, or memorable.
How long can we continue to accept this lamentable and embarrassing state of affairs when an obvious remedy is readily available? Our schools can and should teach students about Recurring Dynamics of History, which are equivalent to the general principles that define other academic fields and virtually all productive fields of human endeavor.
With help from a few old and new teacher friends, I’m in the process of developing a lesson that demonstrates how Recurring Dynamics of History might be taught in the classroom. The lesson is titled: “Democracy is fragile; it has fallen repeatedly to authoritarian rulers.” Stay tuned for further information.